Monday, October 12, 2015

To Blandly Go: Citizens of Earth Review


Hot on the heels of winning an election and securing office of Vice President of the World, the hero of our tale does what would naturally follow:  Crashes at his mom's place for the night because he needs his laundry done like a college student!  Thus your adventure in Citizens of Earth begins as you roll out of bed in search of adventure, excitement, and Vice Presidential stuff--either that or a cup of coffee and your mom because your laundry needs doing.

Developed by Eden Industries and chock full of goofy situations, cornball humor, and a play style reminiscent of Earthbound; Citizens of Earth attempts a unique take on the RPG genre.  You traverse the world at large, alien spaceships, and even your mother's home in a quest to...well, do side quests mostly it would seem.  But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.  Does the humorous dialogue, colorful characters, and SNES style RPG action make the game a success?  Comparisons to Earthbound will abound, so let's get started.


No denying that the menus and various battle and item interfaces work well.  Selecting actions and things meant to help defeat enemies or restore health and power works well enough...and that's all there really is to be said here.  It does its job and nothing more.  Which depending on how deep of an experience in an RPG you are looking for could either be seen as good or bad.  For me, it just added to the blandness--but we'll get more into that shortly.  Not that I expect my sub-menus to do backflips or anything, just I like little touches here and there graphically.  But maybe they were just trying to make it feel more like Earthbound and other RPG games of the 16 bit era.

Graphics and Style

 Character sprites are bright and colorful, backgrounds suit their individual settings well, and the overall art style seems like a hybrid fusion of Diner Dash and Earthbound.  Not that it's bad, just that despite having an eclectic cast of heroes and enemies, it ends up feeling a little too cookie-cutter.  I hate to sound like I'm knocking the design department, after all, people were paid good money to come up designs for everything from the goofy, dull-witted VP of the World to the "Anchor Birds."  However, it feels like they played it too safe.  While I liked the concept of a world populated with zany characters and bizarre creatures, it never felt that unique.  Part of the appeal of a game like Earthbound (yeah, another Earthbound comparison, it was "bound" to happen) lies in how it takes risks with the characters it brings in.  Stray cats, hippies, and horrific aliens in the same game?  Now that's some interesting variety!  Cutesy references to Starbucks, Bob Ross, and several other pop-culture figures?  Eh, okay I guess.  Just kinda dates the game in a bland way.  Again, not to insult the makers of Citizens, but there just weren't enough risks taken in my opinion.

Music and Sound

At this point you may have noticed I've used the word "bland" several times now in this review.  Well, prepare to "hear" it again as I talk about music and sound.

"Title Theme"

Take a good listen, because that's about as good as it gets for the game when it comes to music.  Now, in all fairness you can switch to "retro" mode as the game calls it, and you get more of a classic 16-bit game sound.  While this music swap is appreciated, and personally I preferred the retro renditions, it doesn't enhance the quality of the overall tunes.  They are forgettable whatever coat of paint you put on them.

The game has decent sound design, with realistic effects and humorous, fully voiced sections of dialogue.  Unfortunately though, the game makes use of the voice acting far too often.  It suffers from that now classic problem where the same dialogue gets used over and over again.  You can expect to hear, "Remember to protect me" and "You're grounded" at least a hundred times before the first "quest" is finished.  Also, each time you run into a new character to join your party, they have their own unique, and again fully voiced, dialogue encounter.  Although a part of me appreciates the use of voice actors and I give full kudos to the cast--it just gets a little too old too quickly.  I don't think it's the actors fault really, just the dialogue tries too hard to be funny and seems to hit the same couple of comedic notes over and over again.  I just wanted to skip past the dialogue after the first half hour of playing, but always managed to foul it up.  There were sections where I was strongly reminded of the owl from Ocarina of Time.  You know, where you try to scroll through what he's saying only to accidentally have him repeat it several times before you finally manage to restrain yourself enough from hitting the A button to not accidentally send him jabbering again?  Imagine that, only if the owl was voiced by a used car salesman.


Citizens of Earth revolves around the gag that you play as the recently elected Vice President of the World, and hilarity ensues.  Or at least it tries to ensue.  The game attempts at several points to sell you on the gag that the characters are in a not-so-typical RPG.  So how does it "shake things up?"  Well, as VP of the world, your day starts pretty much as every typical RPG would.  You have a basic mission to complete while you get to know the controls and character motivation.  A helpful character lets you know just how each sub-menu works, and you battle enemies to level up.  And dialogue mainly centers around ushering you from scene to scene to ensure you've gotten the idea on how to play the game.  What sets Citizens of Earth apart are it's various visual and dialogue gags.  Some attempts at humor vary from a light chuckle to eye-rolling desire to skip the dialogue, which I covered before.  I admit though I can't help but give a small smile as you command your friends, brother, and even your own mother to fight your battles for you.  There's admittedly some humor in the notion that the characters who join your quest all fight on your behalf while you, the spineless worm of a politician that you are, sit back and "delegate" at a level most middle managers could only dream of.

However, the gag wears thin fairly quickly, and when it does, you're left with basic run-of-the-mill RPG.  You grind, you level, you fight harder enemies so you can grind on those enemies and level and so on and so forth.  But there's a big problem to this grinding, aside from it being an obvious way to extend gameplay.  It feels like all build up and no pay off.  Every mission you go on basically is a set up so you can have another person added to your party.  There's some thin plot-thread about an alien invasion going on in the background, but the real meat and potatoes gameplay relies on fetch quest after fetch quest to get you more people as possible party-mates.  I just ended up losing interest in the game after a couple of hours because it felt like I wasn't getting anywhere in the story, and knowing there was so little to the story just got me more frustrated.

Final Thoughts

I see how the game makers were trying to bring something both new and familiar to the RPG genre.  They wanted to give us a familiar feeling and welcomed us to a world ripe with a souped up 16-bit like experience.  Too bad that it just ends up giving us familiar territory.  I just got bored with it so quickly.  The dialogue got obnoxiously dumb rather than funnier, the novelty of gathering an eclectic cast of characters wore off before I had finished the first "Act" if you can call it that.  And what was only the first act lasted for far too long with too little pay off.  I wasn't engaged, and I should have been.  How often do you get to play a game where you can recruit a Bob Ross clone and a Starbucks employee to help you battle monsters?  It sounds hilarious and different...but it just doesn't deliver.  It's on sale currently in the eShop and for a discounted price, it might be worth it to check out at least to see if it's your proverbial cup of tea.  It doesn't have any fatal flaws, it just is sort of there.

One last thing that I want to mention:  The game froze and I assumed it was just me having somehow caused it.  But the second time it happened I got a little suspicious.  I looked up "freezing issues" with Citizens of Earth and discovered that there were freezing issues on the Wii U that were mentioned as far back as February.  February.  Here we are in October and the game still does this?  Add that to the list of reasons I'm already so-so on the game and I'm just not sure if I'll ever turn the game on again.  It's a real shame the game is the way it is play-wise.  I can tell that the people who made it are really trying, you can sense the effort behind it in a way.  However, there are just too many flaws within the game for my tastes and a game that can't run properly and crashes twice on me in the middle of a my dad likes to say, it need a rewrite.

Graphics/Visual Style:  7/10
Music and Sound:  5/10
Control and Gameplay: 7/10

Overall Score: 6/10

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